Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Surprise Calls and Slippery Roads

Hello family! Thanks again for the updates! It's been another eventful week here in Faro. I'll start with yesterday and work backish.

Well, yesterday we were going about our work as usual, trying to bring people unto Christ, when I received a phone call from Elder Wardenburg, who was with me in the MTC and is now a secretary in the office. Yes, Jen, we all laughed here as well that he's in the office. He's a funny kid. So he gave me a call asking me when I was going home because he was filling out a report for President Terry. So I got my unofficial trunky call. It was very weird. So that got me to being weirded out for about an hour, when we got a call from President Terry. He asked for Irma Holtzclaw. I immediately started going through the possibilities. I thought that maybe something had happened in her family, but then I knew what it was--emergency transfer. So then President asked for me and confirmed what I thought. Irma Churak had gotten sick and had to go home, so President is doing the irma transfers three weeks early. So Irma Holtzclaw is going up to beloved Seixal with Irma Martinez and me and Irma Machado are staying together until April. Yep, I will be staying here until April. We are so sad to see Irma Holtzclaw go, but I know she will love Seixal. It was a big shock for all of us, so we've been running around to try and get everything done for her. I've been going through the freakout stages of staying not only in one area for four transfers, but being with the same companion for three of them. It will be good, I love Irma Machado, but I am a person who LOVES change, so it will certainly be a change for me.

We also heard this past week that our mission is going to be cut missionaries by 25% because other areas of the world are opening up to missionary work. So happy for the rest of the world, but sad for us.

Okay, on to other news. The three girls. They are still only three just Umara, Aidil and Claudia, but we had a couple of great lessons with them. We went back on Friday and Claudia was there on time. We asked how the reading was going and she said that she had finished 1 Nephi. Woah! I have never taught anyone who actually read the way I know that the Book of Mormon could be read. Finally! She not only read it, but loved it and remembered every detail about the reading. I was so excited. Umara came a few minutes late and read through 1 Nephi 8. She also remembered everything and loved it. Then Aidil showed up about 25 minutes late and had only read five verses. So as they came later the reading was less and less. But they all have very believing hearts and are open to the gospel.

However...we went to go get them for church (mind you it had rained that morning and we were SOAKED, I love living 20 minutes from the chapel...). So Irma Holtzclaw and I went to their dorm and buzzed up to the floor. Nothing. We buzzed again. Nothing. Again we buzzed. Nothing. Finally, after about 10 minutes (I'm sure the girls on the floor just love us by now) a girl came down and let us in. She ended up being the cousin of the Iranian guy we taught once. Random. So we knocked on the girls' door. Nothing. We knocked again. Nothing. Again. Nothing. Again. Nothing. So we left a note and hurried back so we could be on time to sacrament meeting. I was so sad, but I do realize that they are 18 years old, so there are some habits to be broken here. They are still excited about everything and we are going to be teaching them the Plan of Salvation tonight. I know it will bless their lives.

We also sang in sacrament meeting this week. Sister Nelson came over from Loulé and accompanied us. It went pretty well and the whole branch started crying, even President Nunes, who never shows emotion.

Some random happenings from this week: Diogo came to church even though his mom didn't. We have a man who likes to play the accordian right outside of our building some mornings, so we get polka versions of Somewhere over the Rainbow. Sometimes it's a man with a saxophone who plays great music. It's been a bit rainy the past week and so the roads have been very slick. Cobblestone is very slick when wet. I do miss cement sometimes. However, we were walking down the road, late of course, so we were walking really fast and all the sudden I heard Irma Holtzclaw squeal. (I was on teh phone of course). So I thought she had just slipped on the road. As it turns out, she had slipped on some dog doo doo that was on the road. I laughed SOOO hard at that. But, what's even better is that a couple of days later she did it again! The tragic part of all of this is that there is ZERO grass in Faro. Really, nothing. So she had to wipe her shoe off on a bush. We laughed really hard at her. Careful where you step! You must always be on your toes as a missionary.

Things are going just great here. We taught a girl named Wumi, who lives on the same floor as the other girls. She is from Nigeria and speaks English. She is great!

Life is good here. We are happy and working hard. This is the Lord's work. I have no doubts of this. Have a great week! I love you all!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

One Year Older and Wiser Too! Happy Birthday to You!

Hello family! Thank you for the emails! It was great to get the updates on the door and the President.

Well things are going great here. We had Zone Conference on Thursday and it was a great conference. We were all very edified by the Spirit and the pizza. We learned to protect our backs and our knees and to rely on the Spirit. We focused a lot on having the faith to find and that the Lord will guide us in our work. I have already seen this throughout my mission and am seeing it right now.

Friday I hit my one year mark! WOAH! It was crazy! My birthday was not my favorite day in the mission, so this day completely made up for it. My companions are wonderful. They kept surprising me all day. Irma Machado made fried chicken (and taught me how to make it :)). And then after our appointment with Albertina we got a call from our elders here in Faro. Elder Smith said that he needed to talk to us at the church. I was wondering what I had done. As it turns out, my companions had planned a surprise birthday party for me. We had juice, little biscuit things and Ana Lucia's amazing chocolate cake that they begged her to make. It was great! They sang "Happy Birthday" to me as well. I felt very loved. The day ended with a box of Lindt chocolate balls on my bed. YUM. A perfect way to end a birthday.

I can't believe it's been a year. My mission is starting to go really fast.

So not this Sunday but the last Sunday we were walking home and we had some extra time so I made a silent goal to contact people as we walked home. As we walked down the skinny sidewalk I saw two girls up ahead. So I decided to stop them. They seemed nice enough. They were smiling and all bundled up in giant coats. (No it's not that cold here. They were just from Africa.) So I stopped them and they were so nice and so open. They are studying at the University of the Algarve and gave us their numbers and we set up an appointment for Saturday. Throughout my mission I have not had great success with people actually following through on the appointments that we've made, but we called and confirmed and they were excited to see us.

So we went over to their dorm room at the university. And yes, it was very strange to be back at a university. Very strange. They buzzed us in the building and we were very warmly received by Umara and Aidil. They invited their friend Claudia to listen as well. We had our lesson in a little corridor right by the elevator. Before the lesson people were milling in and out and I wondered how it was all going to work out. But we sang a hymn ("I am a Child of God") and prayed. Then we told them about the restoration of Christ's church. The Spirit was so strong as we taught. These girls listened and understood what we were explaining. As I told them about Joseph Smith and the First Vision I felt the Spirit manifest the truth of it to me again. I then asked if they had ever heard of the Book of Mormon. Claudia perked up and responded that she had. In fact, she had a copy of it in her room and reads from it. She went really quickly to her room and got it for us. Her friend had given it to her and she seemed excited that we were from the same church that had the Book of Mormon. We finished the lesson and invited them to church the next day. They committed to coming and to reading and praying. During the whole lesson not one person entered where we were. It was an answer to prayer as we were able to have a reverent atmosphere.

That next day we went to pick them up for church at 9:15am. Aidil came down in pijamas. They had been up late studying and couldn't come to church, but they wanted to come later. So Irma Machado and Irma Holtzclaw went back to pick them up before Sacrament Meeting, as I was playing prelude. I only got to talk to them after the meeting, but the members were SOOO excited to see them. They were very warmly received. It was an answer to prayer. Really. They loved church and we were able to set up a family night with our members who are also from Cape Verde.

So that next night we had our family night. The girls showed really up late again, but to make up for it they brought a friend, Nancy! So...we were okay with them being late. We ate Cape Verdian couscous (AMAZING!). It's kind of like a bread. Kind of. The lesson was great and we were able to get to know them more. As we taught I could see in Claudia's eyes that the believed what we were teaching her. I am so excited to continue teaching these elect girls! It was an answer to prayer.

Yesterday we had a division with the irmas of Portimao and it was great to see Irma Rasmussen again. She'll be done in a few months and that's so weird to me.

Well, things are going great here. We are being greatly blessed with success. I know that this God's work. I am a representative of Jesus Christ. This is His church! I love you all!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Hark! Hark! Hark!

Hello family! Thank you for the updates. Well, it's been another great week here in Faro. We went to Spain (the border, of course) last week. There wasn't much to see and it was a bit chilly, so it was pretty uneventful, though I can now say that I've seen Spain. This week we went out to a tiny island off of the coast by Tavira. It was short as well, but nice to toss a frisbee around again. I'll have to do that again soon.

This past week we had a great turn out for people at church. We had four investigators there and two less-actives! Everyone who said that they were going to come actually came. It was great to see. We made goals with a part-member family and they are working on them and achieving them. I'm so proud of them and can see a difference in them. I want to continue the goal making theme. I believe in the power of goals. They really help you out.

We went to a surprise birthday party for Arkadius, who is a member of the branch. His wife threw him a little party right after church and we sang to him and ate some amazing Cape Verdian food. YUM. It's such a blessing that I got called to a country that has really good food, even if it's foreign food to the country.

Laurinda's really progressing. It's subtle and small, but I can see a mighty change occurring in her heart. I am really starting to see people, especially less-actives, open up to the gospel. It's amazing to see.

Yesterday was an eventful day. We taught the Word of Wisdom to Felicia, who has a problem with drinking. We've been trying to teach it to her for about a week or two, but we've never been able to because she always has people over. But we taught it to her and committed her to living it and we are all grateful that we could be there to help her. At the end of the lesson I thought it would be fun to sing another hymn. I chose "In our Lovely Deseret." My companions snickered as we sang the second verse which is about the Word of Wisdom. It's really the little things that make me smile and laugh. Felicia liked the hymn as well.

Yesterday morning we were heading out to stop by someone's house when we felt like we should stop by an investigator that the elders had been teaching, Rute. She lives right by us and we've taught her before. So we stopped by there and she warmly received us and talked to us about how her life is not going the way she wants it to. We listened to her and comforted her. I really felt like I was living up to my baptismal covenant to comfort those who stand in need of comfort. I knew that we had been inspired to go over to her house. She is a great lady and the elders are excited for us to start teaching her if she is wanting to be taught and to commit.

Other than that things are pretty much normal. We have two family nights set up with members where they are going to be inviting friends over. I am very excited to see them taking part in the missionary work here in a more effective way.

Well, that's about it. We're doing well. I hope that all is well with you all. Have a great day!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

No More Parties - No More Crowns

Hey family! Thanks for the emails! I'll get right started, I have a lot of stories!

Well, I failed to recount something that happened this past week. We got back to our apartment on Sunday night after our day. We noticed that our water pressure was really bad. Hum, funny. Then we noticed that it was getting worse. Then we noticed that the water heater wasn't turning on. Then we noticed that we had no more water! Oh no! So, me being the hopeful thinker that I am, I waited until the morning to try and figure it out. So we woke up that morning. I fiddled around with the water heater. (Yes, I am trying to be more handy. And, no, I am not getting any more handy.) So that was not in any way useful. I waited until 8:15am when I deemed it late enough that I could call our landlord. I maybe might have woken him up, but is there a better way to wake up in the morning? So he groggily muttered out something and said that he would figure it out. So we were some dirty irmas that day as we did not shower, obviously. But we came back that night and the water was back on!

However, that morning we thought we would have enough water to flush the toilet--but we didn't. So Irma Holtzclaw had unscrewed something in order to try and get the lid off of the toilet tank thing. This created a leak. So that night we went home to a puddle in the bathroom floor. So we spent the next 45 minutes trying to get the screw back in and clean up the floor. Good thing my mother taught me how to turn off the water in the bathroom! Thanks Mom! It was an eventful finish to a funny problem. Really water is so important. That experience gave more significance to water and how the Lord says that He is the living water. We cannot live without water, as we cannot Iive without Him.

Our New Year's Eve, or Passage of the Year, as they say here in Portugal, was very lame. Really. Everything fell through. We were able to give an investigator some company, but for the most part we were trying to find people to talk to. NO ONE WAS OUTSIDE! We talked to a bunch of old men, the source of a lot of humorous things here in Portugal. One man asked us what we were doing that night to celebrate and we said we would be at home, sleeping. He laughed in our faces. It was so sad. The rest of the members had gone to Portimao for a party at the church. But we, by some miracle, found a vending machine, got some Fanta and drank Fanta at 10:30pm and took pictures. That was my New Year's Eve. New Year's Day no one was out. Seriously. No one. It was like a ghost town.

Well, yesterday was the last party in the season. They don't say "Happy Holidays" as we do, but "Boas Festas" which means, have good parties. Yesterday was the day of the kings. We saw school children around Faro wearing paper crowns. It was so cute.

I witnessed a miracle this week in all seriousness. I have been working with a less-active, Laurinda, since I got here. When I arrived she was still mourning her daughter, who had died years before. A mighty change has been made in her heart. She is so happy now. She thinks positively about her daughter's life and is at peace because she lived a good life. She loves hearing the gospel from us and especially singing the hymns. I never thought that she would come to church because she had shot me down numerous times. But, this past week we invited her and she came! We went to go pick her up (and we walked about a 5K at a speed walk before church to get everything done) and she didn't answer her door. So we walked back to church. When we got there she was already there! She had waited for us, but misunderstood when we were going to meet, so she went ahead without us! It was a miracle for me tos ee. She hasn't been to church since her daughter's death. I have seen such a change in her in my three months here.

Oh, Albertina got her cast off of her foot! That's pretty much the only progress she's made, but at least she's healing physically, right?

Well, today we are going to see Spain! We're going to Vila Real de Santo Antonio, where we can see Spain and a castle! We got our groceries bought in under five minutes. It was a feat! Well, things are going great here. We are having great experiences every day. Sunday night we really tried to find by the Spirit and we were blessed. We ran into an investigator who had disappeared, as she had moved, we made some great contacts and it was all because we felt like we needed to walk down a street we never would have. My testimony grew of the importance of heeding the Spirit in all apsects of our lives. Have a great week! I love you all!

Com grande, o grandíssimo amor,
Irmã Laura Thomas